School food programs around the world reduce hunger, prevent malnutrition, and provide essential nutrition not always available at home.
School food programs can provide the only daily meal that children living in poverty may get. About half of the world’s schoolchildren receive a daily meal in school, much of it funded by NGOs. Support from donors like you continues to be crucial to making sure children receive the daily nutrition they need to grow and thrive.
Here’s how your support is getting results in Uganda:
The school feeding program is providing a safety net for vulnerable children, most of whom are orphans, some living with their grandparents who have limited strength to work and provide for their basic needs, including food. The program has helped to greatly improve children’s academic performance because of the higher number of academic contact hours between children and teachers. Absenteeism especially after lunch has gone down – children no longer leave to search for food which mostly used to be raw mangoes and sugarcane. The practical lessons carried out in the school gardens are being replicated in homes. –Teacher, Bukhohe Primary School, Uganda
School food programs play an important role in ensuring that child hunger is staunched each school day. However, they also help build a healthy, productive tomorrow for children and youth by alleviating poverty, improving educational outcomes, and bettering children’s health and wellness for the long term.
But, while school food programs are essential, they are not enough. You can help CFTC’s local communities and partners do more to increase the reach and sustainability of these important nutrition boosters.
The benefits of school food
Better health and wellness for children: School meals improve all aspects of children’s health and well-being. Especially for the youngest children, adequate nutrition provided in early childhood care and development centres has a huge impact on fostering healthy child development. But children throughout primary and secondary grades all benefit from consistent, nutritious meals in school.
Benefits for families: For those living in poverty, school meals can help the whole family. They stretch food budgets so that pre-school children and parents all get more food. Plus, they are often complemented by parental supports including nutrition training, livelihoods development, and other opportunities to increase household income.
Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods: Well-designed school nutrition programs ensure that children eat a diverse, balanced diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables – which may be expensive, scarce or uncommon in local diets – are important for short- and long-term disease prevention.
Improved learning: School meals offer an incentive for children to attend and remain in school. Not only does the prospect of receiving food at school encourage children to attend, but kids with full tummies learn better. They are better able to concentrate, have more energy, their memory and problem-solving skills are better and they exhibit less disruptive behaviour. Long-term academic outcomes are also noted: lower drop-out, higher graduation, better performance on standardized tests, and more.
In three CFTC-supported communities (O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation in Manitoba, and Nain and Hopedale in Labrador) teachers and school administrators all reported similar findings: daily access to nutritious food reduced behavioural incidents, increased energy and attention, and improved attendance leading to greater academic success.
School food programs keep girls in school: In many communities worldwide, girls’ education is undervalued and girls are therefore vulnerable to dropping out or being taken out of school, often to be sent away to work or subjected to early marriage. Not only do early marriage and early childbearing present dangers to girls in and of themselves, but lower educational attainment affects women’s longer-term earning capacity miring them and their children in an inter-generational cycle of poverty. Feeding and keeping girls in school plus involving their families in agricultural production for school meals is a virtuous circle, relieving the financial pressure that often leads to taking girls out of school in the first place.
School food programs help build local, regional and national economies: One of the best practices in delivering school nutrition programs is to ensure that food is purchased – and, even better, grown – locally. Procuring food locally creates stable markets that benefit growers and sellers, typically the parents and caregivers of school children, so there is a cycle of increased food and income for better all-round (and all-year-round) nutrition.
School nutrition programs that are integrated with local food systems are community capacity and spirit-builders. School gardens, for example, provide a local supply of fruits and vegetables and also offer community members, parents, teachers, and school children the opportunity to build skills around food production and preparation, gain important information about nutrition and healthy eating, and celebrate community food traditions.
National governments, civil society organizations and NGOs all agree that providing reliable school meals can change the future of the whole country. A recent World Bank report notes:
“When we improve the health and nutrition of schoolchildren, we transform the rest of their lives. Children who are well-nourished learn more, and as adults they earn more and are more productive. That transformation carries through to the next generation with the improved health of their own children, creating a long-term cycle of economic growth and progress.”
How you can help
Your donations for school meals are essential to ensure that children have healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks during the school day. But school food programs run only during the school year, and are only one part of a total food security solution.
Consider donating to support other initiatives that strengthen food security and help provide food for children year round, like:
- Nutrition education: Hands-on learning about healthy eating, where food comes from, and food production and preparation help build lifelong good eating practices.
- Training for teachers, school staff, parents and caregivers: Integrates knowledge of healthy child development and reinforces the importance of dietary diversity.
- Food preparation and hygiene/sanitation facilities: Ensures that well-equipped kitchens, safe water sources, hygiene instruction, and other health and education infrastructure are available.
- Community champions: Peer leaders and community mobilizers can engage students, parents and other community members and advocate for food security funding, policy, infrastructure and resources.
- Other food security initiatives: School and community gardens, women’s livelihoods, and agricultural training and inputs lead to long-term, sustainable impact.
Together, we can make a difference one meal, one student, one community at a time … and create a world where children thrive.
- The Impact of School Feeding Programmes. World Food Programme, 2019.
- For a Universal Healthy School Food Program. Food Secure Canada and the Coalition for Healthy School Food, 2018.
- Re-Imagining School Feeding: A High-Return Investment in Human Capital and Local Economies. World Bank, 2018.